AD Network Newsletter - October 2014

Welcome to the October update of the AD Network (a BBSRC NIBB). 

With our calls for Business Interaction Vouchers (open) and Proof of Concept funds (now closed for 2014), we have started to receive and process applications from a diverse array of interesting areas. Details of funded proposals will be posted on the website as they come in. Remember - you have to be in it to win it!

As always, we are keen to publicise member activities and opportunities.
  • Close to home, Cranfield University are holding an open event to celebrate the opening of their new bio-reactor (Oct 16th).
  • Be influential and spread your views via the survey invitations below.
  • Academics have plenty of opportunities to see the world via academic placements – multiple varieties on offer this month.
We report from inside Southampton University, including some research from partners in China. And in our “What’s hot in AD Research right now?” section is a snapshot of some recent papers in the field.

To see yourself on the map, or find out who else is local to your area, check out the 'join' section of our website:

Curious about potential collaboration partners with the right skills?  Our constantly updated database of members is available to you. Just ask us to send you a copy.

Membership Terms and Conditions

Do take note of our membership Terms and Conditions – accessible through the website. Remember that shared membership details are for the purposes of the network only and not to be redistributed or used for commercial purposes. (Membership will be withdrawn if this privilege is abused.)

Coming soon:
Travel Bursaries

These are available to UK-based members for a range of purposes (£100 - £3000). Want to meet up with another member on AD-related business? Or think that a secondment could help develop a research idea into a proposal? We aim to advance your AD research aspirations either in the UK or abroad. Already have a partner in mind? Inquire about our Secondment Funds.


Open now! 
Business Interaction Vouchers (BIVs)

Have a bright idea and no way to investigate it? Want to bridge the academic/Industry divide?

BIVs will be available on a monthly basis throughout the lifetime of the network. They are intended as a first step on the getting-to-know-you process of linking academic and industrial expertise. These will fund a short, defined piece of work from an academic for industry and mainly cover their salary and consumables up to £5000. Matching funds are required (in kind or cash).

As a confidence-building exercise between partners they require a minimum of paperwork and fuss. You should get an answer on funding 4 weeks after the monthly deadline. Then it is up to you to decide when to start!

What’s hot in AD Research right now?

Want to get a flavour of the current research being published? We have just sampled the array of recent academic papers available to give you a feel for what is going on in the world.

Deterministic processes guide long-term synchronised population dynamics in replicate anaerobic digesters
The ISME Journal (2014) 8, 2015–2028. Inka Vanwonterghem, Paul D Jensen, Paul G Dennis, Philip Hugenholtz, Korneel Rabaey and Gene W Tyson.

(AustraliaOur understanding – deterministic operating conditions control microbial communities and functionality more than realised and these may well be reliably predictable.

Anaerobic digestibility of estrogens in wastewater sludge: Effect of ultrasonic pretreatment.
Journal Of Environmental Management 2014 Dec 1; Vol. 145, pp. 307-13. By Chawla C; Sarkar S; Ali S; Rehmann L; Nakhla G; Ray MB.

(CanadaOur understanding - Estrogens don’t breakdown easily, it seems.

Modelling an off-grid integrated renewable energy system for rural electrification in India using photovoltaics and anaerobic digestion

Renewable Energy. February 2015 74:390-398. By Castellanos, J.G.; Walker, M.; Poggio, D.; Pourkashanian, M.; Nimmo, W.

(Leeds, UKOur understanding – Solar + AD works well to balance demand.

The selection of pretreatment options for anaerobic digestion (AD): A case study in olive oil waste production
Chemical Engineering Journal. 2015-01-01 259:630-63. By Ruggeri, Bernardo; Battista, Federico; Bernardi, Milena; Fino, Debora; Mancini, Giuseppe.

(ItalyOur understanding – CaCO3 is a good pre-treatment for olive oil.

C and N dynamics of a range of biogas slurries as a function of application rate and soil texture: a laboratory experiment.
Archives of Agronomy & Soil Science. Dec2014, Vol. 60 Issue 12, p1779-1794. By: Sänger, Anja; Geisseler, Daniel; Ludwig, Bernard.

(GermanyOur understanding – Soil structure counts when it comes to nutrient release.

Optimization of the specific methanogenic activity during the anaerobic co-digestion of pig manure and rice straw, using industrial clay residues as inorganic additive
Chemical Engineering Journal. 2015-01-01 259:703-714. By Jiménez, J.; Guardia-Puebla, Y.; Cisneros-Ortiz, M.E.; Morgan-Sagastume, J.M.; Guerra, G.; Noyola, A..

(CubaOur understanding – Corroborates the use of inorganic clay as a useful additive.

Diary Dates

16 October
As part of the Bio-Thermal RED (Biological and Thermal Renewable Energy Demonstrator) project at Cranfield University, the Official Opening of the Cranfield University Anaerobic Digestion Pilot Plant is being held on the 16th of October 2014. They would like to invite you to join them at this free event by registering at:

4 December
The Isaac Newton Institute, Cambridge is holding a half-day event on “Understanding Microbial Communities – Developing the Potential”. Of interest to the AD industry, this is an “Open for Business” event. If you are near Cambridge why not pop in? Register at:

11-12 February 2015
The Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum (IBLF) is an industry led and Government sponsored initiative to drive a bio-economy in the UK. The IBLF delivery team, led by the Knowledge Transfer Network with partners NNFCC, are organising a second Industrial Biotechnology Showcase to be held at the QEII Conference Centre, London 11-12th February 2015. This is a major business conference which in 2013 attracted 300 delegates. The AD Network, and all other BBSRC NIBBs will also have a presence. For details see:

The Knowledge Transfer Network is running a business competition aimed at early stage SMEs: The IBLF Awards.  There are nine chances to win a £10k voucher to help springboard the business by accessing key resources such as web design, market research, legal advice etc. IB Showcase conference fees are included in the prize! See: The IBLF Awards, the closing date is 28th November 2014.

Did You Know?

- ADBA have now renamed themselves the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association to reflect the move towards added value products in Industry.
- MT Energie - a leading German turn-key biogas plant company has filed for insolvency. They have 7 plants currently under construction in the UK.
- 7 million tonnes of food and drink were thrown away from UK homes in 2012.
- Over the course of 2014/15, Zero Waste Scotland will provide over £10 million of grant support to help contribute towards the delivery of the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan and associated policy areas in Scotland through the promotion of recycling and resource efficient behaviours.
Do you have 5 minutes? Surveys seek your help.


Later this year, the government will publish a new science and Innovation Strategy. Economic growth is fuelled by investment in science and innovation. The ambition is for the UK to be the best place in the world to do science and the most attractive place to start, finance and grow an innovative business. They've already heard the views of a range of groups and individuals on how they spend our research capital budget. Now they want to hear from you to help shape the rest of our strategy. 
Take the survey now



The ‘Crossing Biological Membranes’ network at Sheffield (funded by the BBSRC) is keen to hear about your views on what you think the ‘Grand Challenges in Crossing Biological Membranes’ are and areas in which you would like to see industry and academia collaborate on to develop future IBBE applications. Please help us to focus our efforts and funding on industrially relevant research by completing the short survey below:


BioVale has secured over £10m of investment to help develop the region as an international centre for bioeconomy innovation and development. The funding will be used to provide dedicated office and laboratory facilities and specialised training for bio-based industry. BioVale is a new initiative to help businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber capitalise on rapidly growing global markets for products sourced from plants, microbes or waste. Conceived around a year ago, it can now begin to realise its ambitious plans to create jobs in the region and help local companies grow, with over £10m of support from local enterprise partnerships, government and the University of York. The funding will be used to create the BioVale Centre, which will provide flexible laboratory and pilot-scale business incubation space to help firms grow their bioeconomy business. They are interested to hear your views and ideas. Their consultation, "What could BioVale do for your business?" is now open online:

Research at the University of Southampton 

Southampton University has a large, active research group in AD. Under previous EU-funded work, the University of Southampton has worked on source-segregated waste via “Valorisation of food waste to biogas” (FP7 Valorgas) and agricultural waste via “Renewable energy from crops and agrowastes” (FP7 CROPGEN). Both of these comprehensive projects produced a large number of publications available to the public. For a taster, see page 17 of “Research EU” magazine for an article on the FP7 Valorgas project.

Current EU-funded work is on the use of microalgae (FP7 All-gas). The All-gas project seeks to demonstrate the sustainable large-scale production of biofuels based on the low-cost cultivation of microalgae. The complete process chain - from cultivation ponds, biomass separation, extraction of oils and other chemicals to the downstream production of biofuels and their use in vehicle fleets - will take place based on a cultivation area of 10 hectares in Spain, with the goal of wastewater treatment becoming energy self-sufficient.

Research from Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU)

At a recent meeting at the University of Southampton hosted by our PI, Professor Charles Banks, counterparts from Shanghai Jiao Tong University outlined their AD research interests. Any factual errors that follow are entirely the responsibility of the Network Manager who transcribed them!

Professor Zhenjia Zhang described his work in the Palm Oil Industry in Malaysia.
With over 1000 palm oil producers in Malaysia alone (more in Indonesia and Nigeria), Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) was becoming an issue. Brought in by the Malaysian Government in 2009 to assist their National Biomass Strategy 2020, Professor Zhang introduced a Zero Discharge Treatment Technology.

For each ton of palm oil, 4-5 tons of effluent was produced. A better method than discharging into oxidation ponds was needed. Working at Labu, the MPOB Research Centre, an entire process incorporating Anaerobic Digestion, Aerobic treatment, Reverse Osmosis and the recycling of fertiliser was piloted and then implemented.
Surprisingly for an oil-rich, high suspended solids feedstock, a granular sludge formed easily. Benefits include running the plant on biogas produced electricity (10%) and exporting the remainder to the grid (90%). Previously, up to 60% of the costs of Palm Oil production were fertiliser costs; therefore, the recycling of nutrients lowered manufacturing costs. Waste water ponds could now be converted to aquaculture and the new facility had a much smaller area. The investment in such a process can be recovered in 3-5 year.

As an interesting aside, Professor Zhang analysed the brownish discharge water to find it packed with beta-carotenes – similar to cola – perhaps raising the possibility of high value product refining.

Professor Ronghou Liu described the range of biomass technologies studied in his group. He focused on the development of equipment for biomass fast pyrolysis for bio-oil production and its demonstration in thousand ton scale.
By heating lignin in the absence of oxygen you can obtain char and pyrolysis vapour. Working at 400-600oC, with loading rates of 1-5 kg/h and a 1-2mm particle size a conversion of 100kg biomass can produce 60 kg bio-oil.

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